‘Sinks, Tiles & (Less) Tears’. The Great Pottery Throw Down Review: Episode 2

Posted by: on Nov 11, 2015 | No Comments

Episode 2 got straight down to business with the Main Make: each contestant being required to make a wash basin using coils of clay. This Make was based on Kate’s skillset, whereas last week’s stacking bowls Make was informed by Keith’s background. Contestants were given only three hours to coil the form – which isn’t a lot of time, and it would be unfair to say that using a former was in any way ‘cheating’ considering the variables involved in the Make eg risks of cracking, warping, and not necessarily having the experience of coiling a similar form or coiling at all.

It looks like contestants were given some preparation time to gather their formers and to undertake some sketches. It would be interesting to cover this preliminary work to get an understanding of how the contestants prepare for their Make and to see what they have invested. It was also nice to see glimpses of the participants’ sketches and for it to be made evident how, in the course of making, ideas develop and the outcomes change as shown by Sally-Jo.

The basins of the Make were inevitably mixed: Joanna and Jim’s worked looked well but Sandra and Nigel’s making needed to take a different approach. Matthew’s stamp work was impressive but how practical was the surface – especially in comparison to James’s rough and jagged edges which drew criticism. James is walking a narrow line between his own expression and the practical conventions of the material: it will either serve him well or be his downfall.

The tile impressing Spot Test was entertaining, but the activity was reduced to making patterns in the clay – if the work had been glazed and fired it would have altered its qualities. In which case, one wonders if the test could have been done in another medium because it was dealing purely with pattern and not fully engaging with clay. The Throw Down was difficult to watch and was perhaps the segment of the show squarely pushed as ‘entertainment’. For example, it would have been good to introduce a professional potter throwing a cylinder while taking cross-sections of the pot at its different stages in order to show some of the unseen things happening in the Spot Test. Of course, this is the difficulty for the programme: to entertain and educate while maintaining a balance between the two.

Overall, the second episode felt more settled and Sara’s relaxed style suits the medium. The judges were more assured too and, to Keith’s credit, he only wept a fraction compared to Episode 1 but it’s inevitable that he’ll get a bit of clay in his eyes. Jim was The Top Potter (Matthew was close behind). Nigel left and James needs to be careful not to follow him.

Next week: Raku.

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